A PYMNTS Company

Justice Department Probes Competition In New England Fishing Industry

 |  October 9, 2022

The US Department of Justice has begun looking at possible antitrust issues in the New England fishing industry, amid growing concern about consolidation and market dominance by private equity investors.

Representatives of two fishing industry groups said that two DOJ lawyers interviewed them in September. “We focused on how this level of consolidation is a regulatory failure,” said Mark DeCristoforo, executive director of the Massachusetts Seafood Collaborative, who was interviewed. His organization represents a diverse coalition of fishermen and related businesses, all of whom he said have been impacted by regulations that favor only the largest companies.

Read More: Ex-Bumble Bee CEO Must Face State Price-Fixing Suits

Labor conditions have deteriorated after a 2010 overhaul of federal regulations allowed private equity firms and foreign investors to dominate parts of the New England fishing industry, particularly the lucrative scallop market.

One such firm is Blue Harvest Fisheries, which operates out of New Bedford and is the largest holder of permits to catch Tgroundfish. The company has purchased the rights to catch 12% of groundfish in the region over the last 7 years, approaching the antitrust cap of 15.5%. It further boosts its market share by leasing fishing rights from other permit owners.

Three U.S. senators have so far spoken up against what they described as lax government antitrust policies. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., urged a review by the DOJ.

“This alarming investigation raises serious concern about possible violations of federal law,” Blumenthal said in a July statement. “A powerful foreign private equity giant has gained huge power over a vital American industry.”

Read More: EU Approves French Support Measures For Fisheries 

Want more news? Subscribe to CPI’s free daily newsletter for more headlines and updates on antitrust developments around the world.